It usually takes me a whole day to hammer out one of these articles, and I had planned to write one today that I think would have been a real doozy. But circumstances in my personal life (don't worry, our marriage is fine) suddenly demand my complete focus, so I'll have to postpone that snarky screed for another time.
As it happens, this month I was asked to participate in three separate Mormon-themed podcasts, and all three are now available, so I'll just offer the links to them and you can go there and have a listen. That should be more exposure to my thoughts than any sane person would wish to spend. In fact, my own wife has not yet bothered to listen to all three podcasts, which only goes to show.
Marry Marry, Where You Goin' To?
First up is podcast number 369 on the venerable Mormon Stories series hosted by the inimitable John Dehlin. I was part of a panel that included Jean Bodie, Stephen Wellington, and Walter Van Beek. We discuss the unnecessary harm being done to the church due to the widely accepted belief that only weddings that are performed in the temple are valid ones. As Brother Van Beek, a leading LDS scholar reminds us, the temple sealing is not a "wedding" at all.
Indeed, if we are to follow the rules for marriage laid out by our founding prophet, all weddings in this church should he held in a public place, not privately in the temple. A "sealing" is a priesthood ordinance intended to seal a marriage that had already taken place publicly. It was intended to be a quieter priesthood ordinance that sealed the couple for time and all eternity. A sealing is not a wedding, but somehow since the mid-twentieth century, we have conflated the two until we have arrived at the belief that those who choose to be married publicly in accordance with our true doctrine are often thought of as morally deficient.
As Jean points out, this policy has actually hurt family relationships by causing unnecessary divisions within a church that claims to value family unity above all else. Jean further asserts that it is the wrongful imposition of policy, and not doctrine, when a couple is forced to wait a year to have their marriage sealed if they chose to have a civil wedding first. This policy is only imposed in North America, and smacks of a punishment; in most other countries couples routinely have a civil wedding first, then are permitted to go to the temple the next day if they wish.
Brother Wellington relates how his civil marriage to his wife was a consummately spiritual experience felt by all present. If you have ever had the opportunity to attend a Mormon church wedding, you know what he means. Ironically, most members I have talked to about this subject have admitted that their temple wedding was not as moving and memorable an experience compared to the public wedding celebrations they have attended.
This should not be. We dilute the sublimity of the sealing experience when it is squeezed in among the wedding day stress and hustle-bustle of receptions and honeymoon plans.
As an increasing number of faithful Saints are realizing that the hurt feelings their parents and loved ones were forced to endure were unnecessary, some are feeling angry. You need go no further than the comment section at Mormon Stories to read account after account of regret.
But who is to blame? I don't think Church leaders are any more guilty of subterfuge in this area than the typical Laurel advisor. This is a sin of ignorance. We have clung to this vain tradition for so long that we have all forgotten the original teaching, which at one time was codified in scripture. By ignoring the doctrine of public weddings and conflating it into a sealing, we have departed from our doctrine and changed the everlasting ordinances. If we are to take seriously the words of Jesus, one sign that apostasy has crept into a church is when "they teach for doctrines the commandments of men."
The Not So Great Apostasy
Which brings us to the next entry, part of a brand new series of Mormon-themed podcasts under the imprint Infants On Thrones. On this podcast, the illimitable Glenn Ostlund brings together a number of people to contribute their ideas on the LDS view of apostasy. About a third of the way through, Mike Ellis and I weigh in with evidence that the prophesied falling away of the restored church is already underway. Ellis, proprietor of the website Zo-ma-rah, has posted a comparative chart showing the parallels between the Great Apostasy and our own.
I find it interesting that while a growing number of latter-day Saints consider the signs of this falling away to be readily apparent, a substantial number of others resist the idea as being impossible. If you happen to be among those who insist "it can't happen here," you might do well to consider President Benson's warning that it is that very kind of institutional pride that can lead to our destruction, both as a church community and as a nation.
Too Much Information
Finally we come to another incipient podcast series, A Thoughtful Faith, wherein the immiscible Micah Nickolaisen conducts a one-on-one interview with Yours Truly, apparently in an effort to find out what it is that makes me tick.
I recently received a very long and very angry email from someone whose cousin had recommended my blog to him. After reading a couple of entries, he made it known to me in no uncertain terms that he was unhappy with my writings and seemed to be of the opinion that if my views were to be seen by the wrong people, it could cause a catastrophic implosion that would result in the complete destruction of the entire universe, as well as the church.
Or words to that effect. I'm paraphrasing.
"What is it you're trying to prove?" he demanded to know.
Well, I hope you good folks know I'm not trying to "prove" anything; I'm just sharing some thoughts. This is just a blog, after all. A Web Log. If I had anything to prove I'd figure out a way to make money doing this.
I hope that guy will listen to this podcast, as in it I explain how one of the reasons I do this is because I see it as part of my process of repentance. I also hope he'll come to a full understanding, as I do, that if everyone in the church will just wise up and faithfully read my blog every month, the moon will finally enter the seventh house, Jupiter will align with Mars, peace will guide the planets, and love will steer the stars.
So, here is where you can go to hear all three podcasts:
|The King of All Media|
Mormon Stories: "Exploring LDS Temple Wedding Exclusion And Inclusion"
Infants On Thrones: "Apostasy"
A Thoughtful Faith: "Rock Waterman And Pure Mormonism"
Thanks for listening!
At the top of this page I mentioned some personal challenges that are facing me and Connie at the moment. I've decided to share them with you in hopes you will send your prayers our way. We firmly believe in the power of concentrated prayers from a multitude of voices, and Connie could use a bunch of them right now.
Now and then in some of my posts, I've mentioned in passing Connie's deteriorating health. Some readers have emailed me from time to time to ask what specifically is wrong with her.
What's wrong with Connie? Well, for starters she made a poor choice with her selection of a husband. But that's up and done with. No use crying about that. So let's just focus on her health issues, shall we?
Connie has been called an idiopathic medical anomaly, which sounds insulting but in layman's terms just means the doctors don't really know the cause of her problems, or even what to do about them. Some intern at UC Davis Medical Center actually did his doctorate on her, and when her shoulder joint was replaced, they sent a chunk of her bone to Cedar Sinai to study. That's how weird all this is.
One of her ailments is a form of Avascular Necrosis that is usually only seen in some people with a long history of deep sea diving combined with a lifetime of whiskey drinking -and then only in men. (Note: Connie is neither a deep sea diver, a whiskey drinker, or a man.)
Avascular Necrosis results from slowing of the blood to the various joints, which eventually crumble and atrophy from lack of nourishment. So Connie has had her share of hip and shoulder replacements, and various other stop-gap measures. Anyway, the how and why remain a mystery, but the upshot of it all is Connie has been in constant agony for years, and there's not much that can be done other than to try and palliate her pain.
Over time, doctors have treated Connie's pain with massive amounts of the usual opiates: Morphine, Oxycontin, Dilaudid, and so on. But here's a cruel irony: A couple of years ago a mysterious pain in her head developed, and these opiates have only exacerbated that. So she has had to cut back, as now pain medication only made the terrible pain in her head hurt worse. These days Connie spends most of her time in bed; we don't go many places together except for the almost constant medical appointments.
Recently Connie's case was turned over to a pain specialist in Placerville, about an hour from our home near Sacramento. He determined that Connie may be a candidate for a procedure wherein a device would be implanted under her skin that delivers pain medication directly into her spine throughout the day. A series of trial injections were successful; Connie could stand, walk, and said she even almost felt like dancing. She felt much better until the injections wore off. We have hope that the permanent implant may result in Connie having a halfway decent life again.
So last Friday we drove up to Placerville for a preliminary meeting with the surgeon who will be performing the incision the following Friday (which now happens to be tomorrow). Placerville is up in the mountains west of us, a former mining town, and that's where we have to go because that's where the hospital is from which these specialists operate. Well, this particular climb was one too many for our ancient jalopy, and it blew a head gasket on the freeway just short of the hospital. Fortunately, I learned years ago to never be without AAA, so we had the car towed to a nearby service garage where it was pronounced dead on arrival. Too old and worn to be worth fixing. We knew the car didn't have much more life in it, but yikes, what a time and place.
We managed to rent a car to get to the appointment and then home, and now here we are. Five years ago if something like this had happened to us, I might have spiraled into a depressive funk, but I have since learned that when we allow fear to take us over, the spirit of God is hampered, and it's harder for good things to flow to us. So, I just decided to see what window God was about to open.
Our first concern upon returning home that day was how we were going to get Connie back up to the hospital in Placerville the following week. Mirabile dictu, the next day I got an email from a stranger who had heard from someone else about our predicament, and offered us the use of his car for that day. So that's taken care of. Now all I have to do is find a way to replace our old car at a price we can afford. Our Recently Departed was a salvage job I grabbed for just over a thousand dollars five years ago, and since we are not presently well off financially, I'm hoping for a similar find this time around.
So, I tell you all this by way of asking you, my friends, to send your prayers, light, love and energy to Connie at this time in hopes that this implant will take hold and do the trick. I would love to have my wife back the way she used to be, alive and kicking. With your combined prayers, I believe we can see a miracle.
And, just in the off chance that one of you out there has an old clunker you were about to donate to one of those charities, I hope you'll hold the phone and consider me first. I'll take a train or a bus and come pick it up. Doesn't matter how battered and ugly the car is; if it will get Connie to her appointments, that's all we need. I can be reached at RockWaterman@gmail.com.